Guest blogger: Beverley Eikli
At uni I thought I’d found my Mr Right. Then, after eight years of dating, it all came to what, at the time, I believed was a tragic end.
Suddenly, however, a grand new adventure beckoned. I traded my dream Adelaide bluestone cottage and my stockbroker boyfriend for a handsome Norwegian bush pilot and a thatched cottage in a mopane forest in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana.
It was here I started to write seriously, though I’d already written two very bad historical romances.
My problem was that I had no idea what I was doing. Or how to go about doing it. I’m obviously a slow learner for throughout my numerous attempts at romantic fiction—the two historical romances mentioned, in which I killed off either the hero or the heroine, followed by two HM&B Sexys set in the Okavango Delta—I simply repeated all my worst mistakes.
After Botswana and eight years of travelling the world, my husband and I settled in Sydney where one day, by chance, I picked up a copy of Valerie Parv’s The Art of Romance Writing. It was a landmark moment. I had no idea romance had such clear-cut guidelines—like a happy ending—and that both the hero and heroine had to remain alive. (In some form, at least.) I still remember my excitement as I dialled a phone number for Romance Writers of Australia, having no idea that such an organisation existed.
Or what a wealth of support—in every way—it would provide.
In 2000 I became a member of RWA and despite continuing my life as a ‘trailing spouse’, living for a few years in Solomon Islands, Japan and Norway, I used my travel privileges to return to Australia every August to attend conference.
The Diamonds are Forever Conference in August will be my 12th consecutive conference. It’s my four days of uncompromising ‘me’ time, where the kids are someone else’s responsibility—and I can’t wait to catch up with my writer friends, improve my craft by attending the many diverse workshops on offer, and brush up on my promotional and marketing skills (which really need help).
Twice I’ve stayed at the conference venue with my husband on hand so I could rush out to breast-feed the baby—11 years ago for baby no. one, and six years ago for baby no. two.
Another time the once-weekly plane flight from Honiara to Brisbane meant I kicked around for five days in various Queensland youth hostels before I found an eccentric beachside hotel for $50 a night near the conference itself. It was a rare novelty being a lone traveller for that week, enjoying a drink with twenty-something German and Japanese backpackers, knowing my two-year-old was being looked after by our capable housegirl, Rose, in Honiara, while my husband was out flying in the Pacific.
Travelling solo always throws up good novel fodder. Little but nice things, like the gentlemanly construction worker who rushed over from his concreting to give me an umbrella when I was caught in the rain walking from my hotel to the conference venue. He said I could return the umbrella the next day.
Those few days at conference each year are like a blast of fresh air. Who needs a holiday in Bali when you can immerse yourself in a shared passion with people who understand what drives you? Writer friends.
When I turn my head from writing this blog and look at our front door I can still envisage the ‘nicest rejection letter but with an invitation to resubmit’ I’d ever received, taped there so my husband couldn’t miss it when he came back from flying late that night.
The fact that that rejection resulted in my first published book in 2009, after I’d rewritten the second half, is largely due to what I learned through RWA.
I suppose that having experienced change at such regular intervals in my domestic life it wasn’t surprising that after writing three Regency historicals for Robert Hale (UK) I wanted to try my hand at something else.
During the final stages of editing my last book—A Little Deception, which I was thrilled to have nominated in the Favourite Historical for 2011 category by ARRA—I found myself succumbing to the increasingly persistent demands of a very feisty, lusty wench called Fanny Brightwell. Fanny was determined that for my next book I write her story. She had an axe to grind with a particular gentleman—a sinfully gorgeous rake—and she wanted me to engineer his comeuppance … provided, of course, she was guaranteed a happy ending.
However, Fanny’s exploits went beyond the parameters of what I could publish with Robert Hale—and so my pseudonym Beverley Oakley was born.
Fanny’s story is told in Rake’s Honour, which was published earlier this year and which is followed by two more Beverley Oakley novellas—Lady Lovett’s Little Dilemma, which releases on 2 July and The Cavalier, on 16 July. (Watch for my release day blogs for the chance to win a copy.)
Fanny was inspired by William Thackeray’s anti-heroine, Becky Sharp, whose wicked take on life I found far more interesting than Thackeray’s virtuous, industrious but passive heroine, insipid Amelia Sedley.
Fanny knows what she wants, isn’t afraid to go after it, and while she’s determined to wrest a happy ending out of all the angst, her injured pride requires her hero to do a lot of public grovelling before she’ll give him his reward.
Fanny wrenched me out of my writing groove and although I’ve just finished another traditional Regency romance, Rake’s Honour is the first of a number of erotic Regencies scheduled for release and in the pipeline.
Thank you for having me here today. Perhaps I’ll see some of you at the ARRA author signing at conference. I hope so.
In the meantime, here is the premise for Rake’s Honour:
That means two weeks to convince dashing Viscount Fenton she’s his perfect bride.
Battling spurned suitors, jealous debutantes and a peagoose of a sister on the verge of destroying the Brightwell reputation, Fanny has little time to make her handsome lover her slave in passion …
So he’ll make her his wife.
You can read more about Beverley Oakley and her alter ego, the more conventional Beverley Eikli—who nevertheless loves adding a good dose of intrigue to her stories—at her website.
You can buy Rake’s Honour here.